It starts out innocently enough: a forgotten camera, a precious moment, and then aha! - out from one's pocket or purse comes that slick new cellphone with a camera lens. A baby's first smile, a Little Leaguer's home run, or a friend's walk down the aisle is captured. What a relief.
But as these phones become more and more popular around the world - 80 million have been sold since they were introduced early in 2002 - people have discovered that, like many forms of technology, this hip electronic gadget isn't always so cool.
In Australia, pictures taken with a camera cellphone of an imprisoned stockbroker were published in a Sydney newspaper. In England, onlookers with video mobile phones filmed a rape in the restroom of a pub. And a handful of websites now post photos taken surreptitiously with camera cellphones.
Each of these examples is different, but together they raise some of the same questions: What are the rights of the person being photographed, and should controls be put into place to limit where and how camera cellphones may be used?
For starters, say experts on technology and privacy issues, one has to consider the location of the activity and if an individual can reasonably expect to be unobserved there.
"Out in public, you are fair game," says David Bentkowski, a city councilman and lawyer in Seven Hills, Ohio. But when someone is in a private location, he adds, that's another story.
Ever since he first encountered a camera cellphone, Mr. Bentkowski has spent much time pondering and discussing its potential for infringing on privacy rights.
He has been in contact with state and federal politicians and hopes to influence legislation banning these phones in public restrooms, locker rooms, and showers. Taking pictures in places such as these, where one expects to be unobserved, is an obvious invasion of privacy, he says.